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More emphasis on microbes required in food safety

Media Release

29 July 2014

- for immediate release

More emphasis on microbes required in food safety

Current concepts regarding food safety and security may be inadequate for fully addressing what is an increasingly complex issue. That’s according to Lincoln University Senior Lecturer in Food Microbiology, Dr Malik Hussain.

Dr Hussain has been invited as a representative of the University’s Centre for Food Research and Innovation to the Asian Food Safety and Security Association Conference to be held in Vietnam in August. He will also chair a workshop at the conference on risk assessment and management with regard to food safety.

Although the matter of food safety and security may sound simple enough, it is, in fact, a multi-dimensional and complicated issue, made all the more so from increasing pressures stemming from rapid population growth.

“Broadly speaking, current concepts around food safety and security tend to be based around three main pillars,” says Dr Hussain. “These are food availability, food access and food use.”

“However, there needs to be greater emphasis on the microbiology aspects, as well. For instance, although food availability is tremendously important, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Around one third of all food produced globally for human consumption goes to waste due to food safety issues such as spoilage and a loss of quality due to decay.

“Microorganisms play a huge part in the food supply chain. Their impact, both positive and negative, can be enormous, whether from an economic perspective or just basic human health. Successfully attending to the microorganism aspects of food production, therefore, means less wastage. It means a more effective use of what is already produced, rather than a need to dramatically increase production levels.

“The matter is complicated further by the direct effect climate change has on microbiology as it relates to food safety,” he said. “Climate change changes the ‘playing field’. Meaning the potential for some current microbes to gain greater influence, or for new pathogens to develop.”

The Asian Food Safety and Security Association Conference will bring together food safety and security scholars, entrepreneurs and government officials from around Asia and Oceania.

Dr Hussain sees this as an important event for ensuring healthy dialogue in the development of new food products and processing technologies, and in microbiological risks as a whole. In particular, he hopes for some useful discussion around how new antibiotic-resistant pathogens can be monitored and mitigated through targeted research and intervention.

“It’s vitally important we stay on top of the microbiology aspects of food safety and security,” says Dr Hussain. “I have been putting my efforts into establishing training and research opportunities for industry and researchers alike. Among other things, I see this conference as an excellent opportunity to showcase what Lincoln University’s Centre for Food Research and Innovation offers in this tremendously important space.”


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